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Spring European Tour 2018 

Dudley Taft Band Spring European Tour 2018

March 26 - May 6, 2018

 

Often enough, it all starts and ends with a bottle of whiskey. This being the tenth tour of Europe since 2012, I know this well. It was a Dun Bheagan Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky called the Glenallachie:

 

I remember it was pretty good. Because of Ralf and Anko I have been introduced to some great whiskeys!  Normally I like tequila, but it's tough to find over there. The Glenallachie did a good job of sending me off to slumber.

After a direct flight to Paris and a connector to Dusseldorf, I drove an hour to Cologne and met up with Ralf Reichen at his shop to gather some of the gear. I am now keeping most of what you see on this pedalboard at Ralf's.

I arrived with the Klon and the OCD. After a few minutes of wiring, it was ready to rock, thanks Ralf!

1967 Fender Vibrolux and Ralf's TNT head and cabinet

For this tour, I added another 'weapon' to my arsenal: a 1967 Fender Vibroluxe Reverb! I sent it from the states, and Ralf changed the output transformer (220v over there!) and installed 2 10" Celestion greenback speakers. It is the perfect mate for a Tonehunter TNT head and cabinet.

I had a nice dinner with Ralf and the family to end my long day of travel.

L to R: Kristin, Tarika, (boyfriend) Nico, Ralf, me.

It was time to get my schnitzel on, have another sip of whiskey and get a good night's sleep because the next day I was off to the Lammer's.

It was the usual schedule of events: I drive to Anko and Helga's house in Vriezenveen, and make trips to the nearby Almelo train station to pick up the boys. Kasey was the first to arrive and we headed straight back to get him settled in. Kasey knows the drill.  This was his third tour.

We welcomed a new member to the team for this tour, Irishman Marty McCloskey. I met Marty in 2017 when we did a gig with Simon McBride and Marty was their drummer. We hung out a bit after the show that night and I made a mental note to get hold of him for the next tour. Initially I thought he could recommend someone he knew to play with us - as we are starting to get some "fly away" festival offers and would benefit by only having to pay for two flights from the US for those.  However, Marty was able to free himself up and play for us. 

Marty arrived later that day and we set up and rehearsed for a couple of hours before heading into Almelo for dinner. Typically we would eat at the Shamrock, an Irish bar and restaurant. I realized that might be funny for Marty, being Irish. Hahaha . . .  , but they were closed so we ate somewhere else.  We were determined to have Marty give us his informed opinion of the place. 

We had Tuesday and Wednesday to rehearse before we left for our first gig in France. Wednesday nights are when Anko's band, The Beggars Clan, rehearses. They play Irish folk music so it was fun to watch Marty's reaction. He seemed to know all of the songs! Hahaha.. . .

Beggar's Clan Rehearsal

The Beggars Clan

When working a new drummer into the band there are challenges. Some guys play only from memory thus repetition is the only way to know the songs cold. That can work just fine IF the drummer in question has spent enough time with the songs. We had one guy who told us that he "listened to the songs a lot on the plane ride over here" and of course that raised red flags! But Marty took detailed notes and kept them in a book with plastic liners for each song. If we wanted him to do something different - different than what he was playing, he would carefully remove the note form the sleeve and make changes, carefully putting it back into place. So, no red flags! Hahaha, he was well prepared! 

With the van totally packed to the gills, we headed out toward our first gig -  our premier gig in France! 

Packed to the gills!

It was to be about a 12 hour drive to Samoëns. We didn't want to kill ourselves before our first show, so we drove about eight hours to Dijon. I wish we had more time to check out the town, but sadly we did not. We saw a sign on the freeway saying Dijon was the culinary capital of France, but only kebab was available at 10 pm when we arrived. (bummer)

The French freeway system is in great shape and not terribly crowded probably because the tolls are so expensive. I think we spent about €100 on tolls driving around there!  

When we arrived in Samoëns we found a quaint skiing village. It was overcast and raining, but apparently that didn't stop droves of skiers. 

Samoëns - French Alps

Our French hosts took great care of us by putting us up in a nice hotel for three nights! The festival lasted for three nights with French bluesman Fred Chapellier headlining the first night. He played mostly Peter Green (early Fleetwood Mac) songs, and I was asked to get up and jam with him. We were the headliner for the second night, and my friend Manu Lanvin was the big act on the third. I had met Manu in Poland the year before, and he thought I would be good for festivals like these (merci Manu). Manu arrived on the first night and we all jammed with Fred.

L to R: Manu Lanvin, Fred Chapellier, me and another guy

The venue was large, and we put our banner up by the bar.

We had a great first show in front of a packed house!

"Dark Blue Star" Live in Samoëns, France

It was great to have a few days in the Alps - we added this show to the tour after most of the dates had been booked, so it was our only show for that week. We hung out with Manu and his posse and had a great time.

Finally the sky cleared and we could see the mountains!

L to R: Jimmy Montout, Nicolas Bellanger, Manu Lanvin and me

A bit sad to leave France, but fully recovered from jet lag, we headed back to Anko's stopping for a night in Saarbrüken, which is a nice small town on the boarder of France and Germany. This is the home of our good friend Udo Löw, guitarist for Thorny Roses, and the emissary to Alex's House of Torture (for those who follows these BLOGs). One of my all time favorite steak restaurants is there - Gusto. 

L to R: Kasey Williams, me, Marty McCloskey, Udo Löw

We returned to Anko's house and had some rehearsal -- some for our set list songs, and some for the original tunes I had been working up. After the coming weekend of shows, we were headed to Nicolas Bellanger's studio outside of Paris to record a bunch of these new tunes, and I wanted to get a jump on the arrangements. Of course, days off at Anko and Helga's always includes the occasional night of Whiskey sampling, and we did just that - trying some rare blends made in Corsica!

Anko (L) and Corsican Whiskey

After a few days of practice and fun with the Lammers, we headed out to Belgium to play a show in Stekene, which was close to a town called Sint Niklaas, where we stayed. Pulling up to the venue, I had the feeling it was going to be grim; we were driving around a light industrial area with no street scene or walk-by traffic. Oh boy.

Stekene - Willy's Place SRBC - Belgium

But it turned out to be a great gig. It is one of those 'destination' venues where blues rock fans go to get their fix. Well, we were happy to give it to them! The organizers liked us so much he wants us to play a festival nearby in 2019.

The sun was out with a vengeance now and everyone was out in it! Our next two shows were a short drive to the north - Waalwijk (wall-why-ke) and Tilburg.

The Saturday night show in Waalwijk was better attended - the stage was closer to the front door where people were congregating outside. We played there last year, and the owner, Jeroen, was a cool guy and took great care of us.

The first two songs of the second set - "Dark Blue Star" and "Pistols at Ten Paces"

We had a few weekdays off, so we arranged to head to La Chapelle Montligeon, a small town west of Paris to record a few new song demos at the studio of Nicolas Bellanger, bassist for the Manu Lanvin Devil Blues Band. Nicolas has a nice old farmhouse outfitted with a fantastic recording studio, and we got right to work. Setup was easy - he had all the microphones ready and a drum kit set up. There were tons of guitar and bass amps around as well. 

Nicolas and Marty setting up

Laying down the new songs

Hanging out with Carl, the horse. L to R: Marty, Carl, Me, Kasey, Nicolas

Nicolas and Lawrence took great care of us in Montligeon!

We worked from late morning through dinnertime, and had some fantastic French food out there. A big thanks to Nicolas and Lawrence for their hospitality.

Studio boys, Montligeon

With the demo files loaded onto a hard drive, we left for our weekend of gigs, starting in Oberhausen, Germany. We rolled in the night before and had plenty of time to get ready. The club in Oberhausen was called Gdanska, after the Polish port city. It is owned and operated by a Polish couple who were surprised to hear me speak a few words to them in their language, hahaha. This gig was one of the more memorable ones from the tour for several reasons. First, the venue was interesting, with an eclectic hodgepodge of decor, including a painting of their dog:

Gdanska doggie

Another thing about the gig; it was one of the German shows where we were hoping for a good review to help us find a better German booking agency. My current agent did very little to get us gigs (incredible, huh?). We metv a guy named Sven who said he was a jazz critic. I wasn't sure if he was there to review the show or not. I think our brand of Blues Rock might be a bit lumbering and flashy to a jazz lover! Before we started, I was introduced to another reviewer, Frank Ipach who gave me a grave 'hello.' Oh boy.

Also, the promoter guy said he had only sold about 20 tickets in advance, so I was worried that there would be a poor turnout. I guess that's a natural feeling for any band! But somehow the Germans figure out where we are playing and show up in droves, as they did that night. The small venue quickly filled up, and after the first song I could tell we had an enthusiastic audience. About 10 days later my publicist (great German guy named Dirk Osterhaus) sent me two excellent reviews from the show! 

Our next stop was the town of Raalte in the Netherlands. This is the home of a big festival called Ribs and Blues, which I would like to play sometime soon... We played at Taverne Tivoli which is a fantastic place - great food, nice relaxed atmosphere and right next to the American Motorcycle Museum, home to hundreds of old Harleys. After sound check, we were allowed into the museum to take a look.

American Motorcycle Museum - Raalte, NL

I hurt my back loading gear and was really struggling on that gig not to do anything to make it worse. Wearing a guitar when your back is enflamed is tough. One bad move and you might have to get horizontal for a few days. But somehow the Dutch beer kicked in and I made it through. That night I discovered a great way to position my guitar amps. I use a Tonehunter TNT head and 2 x 12 cabinet and a 1967 Fender Vibroluxe Reverb. Placing them side-by-side works well if on a large, wide stage. When the stage is not so wide, what do you do? I put the Fender behind the Tonehunter cab this night and discovered absolutely freaking killer tone! The Fender is loud - and you can't really turn it down, as the volume knob works more like a gain knob. If you set the volume on 2 or 3, it sounds terrible. So I put it behind the 2 x 12 cabinet so it could blast away but not directly aim at anyone. The sound bounced all around and complemented the TNT head well! I was so happy to discover this. Check out the video below - we were having a great time, and I was in guitar heaven.

"Going Down" live in Raalte

I guess the third time is the charm. We headed back to Anko territory to the town of Eibergen to play outside of Café de Stier. They close the town for a long weekend twice a year, and we played the last two holidays. We had a better spot - headlining on Sunday (the festival runs through Monday) and had a decent crowd. I recognized a bunch of the crowd from the previous gigs there, like this crazy guy:

L - R: Crazy Eibergen dude, Kasey, me

The outdoor festivals are cool because younger people end up seeing the show. We made some new fans that day!

Bringing blues rock to the younger generation in Eibergen, NL

Our next show was one I had been really looking forward to as we had never played Austria before. I quite enjoy southern Germany so I was hoping that Austria would be just as interesting, and it was. We had a couple of days off, so Marty flew back to Ireland to see his girlfriend and Kasey and I drove to Munich. Munich was on the way, and I had never been there before. My back was still bothering me and walking was the ticket to relief (and beer helped too). Kasey and I walked all around Munich checking out the old buildings and an art Museum. 

Giant beers, New Town Hall, Pinakothek Modern Art Museum

Thursday morning after Marty arrived from the airport, we headed to Austria, first to be the guests on "Live with Friends," a video show like "Live at Dary'ls House" in a town called Veit an der Glan, near our Friday gig in Velden am Worthsee. The weather was fantastic, which made for a beautiful drive through the mountains and tunnels of Austria

Driving to Austria

The "Live with Friends" guys put us up in a nice hotel in Viet, which strangely featured lots of Kevin Costner pictures (I guess the hotel owner is proud of the association). Peter Prammerdorfer and his friends learned three of my songs, and I played on one of theirs. They shoot with multiple cameras and post the videos on their YouTube page

Somebody loves Kevin Costner

"Live With Friends" show 

Friday morning we only had a 30 minute drive to Velden for our show at Bluesiana. Velden is a nice little holiday town on a lake with some nice hotels and a casino. Mercedes, BMW's, Jaguars and Porsches were in great quantity as were high-end Harleys and leather motorcycle gear. The shops in the town had very upscale clothing and decor items. It was a perfect day to walk around - sunny and 75º. 

Velden am Wörthersee, Austria

Nightlife in Velden

Our stage setup in Velden at Bluesiana

"Lonesome Memphis Blues" live at Bluesiana Rock Café in Velden am Wörthersee, Austria

We were a bit sad to leave Austria after this fantastic, but short visit. The drive back north into Germany was just as spectacular. The sun was shining bright as we weaved our way through the mountains and tunnels. On Monday, we would start a seven day gig schedule, so we relaxed in Nuremburg for a couple of nights. None of us had ever been there and the weather was perfect for walking around the town. Around since the middle ages, Nuremburg sits on the river Pegnitz and has a population of about half a million people. 90% of it was destroyed by allied bombing in World War II, but later rebuilt, including the wall that surrounds it. It certainly is picturesque and was a great place to spend a couple of nights.

Relaxing in Nuremburg

Don't try to go shopping there on Sunday because EVERYTHING IS CLOSED except for restaurants. It was pretty warm and I didn't bring any shorts. We all bought a pair in Velden, but mine didn't fit well and I thought I could snag another pair and get some white socks. No dice. 

We drove less than an hour to our next gig in Bamberg, a small college town 60 kilometers to the north. Our gig that night was interesting; we played two sets, the first one attended by our regular demographic (40 and up) and the second one to an additional crowd of college students who were there for the half-price drinks and the DJ that started after we finished.  

Tuesday morning we rolled into Cologne for a show/interview at a small theater. "Talkin' Blues" is a show hosted by Vincent Abbate (who also writes for Rocks magazine) and Richard Bargel, a folk/blues guitarist. They had a backing band that played a few songs first, then I did a ten minute interview (speaking slowly for the German audience) followed by four songs by us. Then there was an intermission, then another short interview followed by some songs by Richard Bargel, a few more by us then both bands participated in playing Freddie King's "Going Down," which was cool - two drummers, two bassists, etc. That was fun.

Full interview/show at the Urania Theater in Köln, Germany

Urania Theater Crowd

Two shows down, five to go in our seven-day-in-a-row run. We headed north to Hamburg to play a bar called Cowboys und Indianer on the Reaperbahn, the area of town known for the Star club where the Beatles honed their act before recording their first album. I wasn't sure what to expect but found the Reaperbahn to be a sleazy part of town filled with brothels, sex toy shops and clubs. We were booked to play Wednesday and Thursday, and it's hard to tell what the crowd will be like on weeknights. We set up right in front of the bar.

Setting up right in front of the bar at Cowboy und Indianer in Hamburg on the Reaperbahn

The turnout was pretty good for a weeknight, but these gigs were very unpleasant because the owner allowed smoking in there. After the show that night I put my stage clothes in a closet in the hotel room and kept the door closed until I needed to change for Thursday night. It reminded me of the days before smoking bans - how did we all suffer through that?!?! 

I did have a good time in Hamburg though. A college mate of mine, David Zeller, had moved there about 15 years ago and was happy to show me the town. We started at the Elbphilharmonie building where the Hamburg Orchestra plays - on a small strip of land called the Strandkai. The area is still developing so it has some very modern apartment buildings. We checked out the town hall that has a beautiful rathaus, and walked around the surrounding area with its upscale shops. 

Hamburg, Germany and David Zeller

David Zeller and Me

After the big city of Hamburg we drove to what seemed the middle of Nowhere, Germany: Wetter. This small village sits between Dortmund and Düsseldorf and the venue was in a light industrial park like our gig in Belgium. Again, I wondered who the hell would come out to this place. It is more of a studio and pro audio showroom, but it does have a huge stage, PA and light system. Upon arriving, Günter Erdmann enthusiastically told us how great the room sounds, and that it was Carl Verheyen's favorite venue to play in Germany. Well, if it's good enough for Carl Verheyen, it's, uh, good enough for me? Hahahaha. Well, it turned out to be one of the best shows of the tour - nice big crowd, great big stage, and we were treated like kings. We shoot video of our sets every night, and were a bit bummed out when we got the audio from the front-of-house mixing console because it was very distorted. We do have some room mics, but the room was so big the sound is cloudy and muddy. We are trying to salvage some audio so we can post a video or two from this show. 

Another great thing about the show was that my good friend Dirk Osterhaus and his lady Christiane were there, and they took over selling the CDs and T-shirts. We had the best sales of any show this year! It makes a big difference to have someone help with that, and these guys kicked ass. We also had a visit from our good friend and superfan, Marco Zwillich:

Me and Marco Zwillich

With five shows down and two to go of our seven in-a-row schedule this week, we headed to Amsterdam for a very interesting gig! Every tour, someone asks if we played Amsterdam. I think it's like playing New York, Nashville or LA in the US: tough, indifferent crowds comprised of tourists and jaded locals. Also, the pay sucks and it is a logistical nightmare getting the gear into the thick of the town with the narrow streets and aggressive bicycle traffic! 

I was right:. It was quite tricky to get to the venue because it is within the canal that surrounds the city. A road was blocked off, and we had to back a couple of blocks down the street. When we finished loading in I asked Jur, the owner, where to park the van. I loved his reply: "This is a problem." I then asked him if he thought backing up and leaving it against the barrier would be a problem with the Police. He said, "No, but the people walking around and on bicycles are more of a problem."  

LOVELY. 

We took turns checking on the van every 20 minutes or so and between sets. Supposedly there is a noise maximum of 95bd, which is about the level of a loud-talker. We did our best to keep the levels low, watching the decibel meter which was mounted directly in front of us. But after the first song Jur told me to TURN UP THE GUITAR. Yeah, I don't hear that often enough! Hahahaha. There was a decent little crowd, with some crazy guy with an afro dancing like mad - even during the break. We had to get some of him on video (see below) All in all, it wasn't a bad night, ignoring the stress of parking the van and Jur was quite happy trying to give us all shots after the show (bad idea). 

"Dancing Afro Guy"

Tiny Stage at Maloe Melo in Amsterdam

I was a bit worried that I would be exhausted and not be able to sing and play seven nights in a row, but I was feeling good as we headed south to a small town south of Spijkenesse called Heenvliet. We played a place with the hard-to-pronounce name of Café De Gouden Leeuw. The stage was on the second floor (ugh) but there were lots of people there to help us load in. There was an opening band that night - friends of the owner Hugo, I think. They played 95% Stevie Ray Vaughan songs, which was interesting. We rocked our sets, and I kept the energy up through most of it, only getting fatigued on the last few songs. I do all I can to keep in good shape - three tough workouts per week and lots of vocal exercises. But when the tour starts, all bets are off and I ride my fitness wave through the tour (in other words, no workouts). Playing every night really does get one in shape, and is also fantastic for the band. We get to know the songs inside and out, and evolve our interpretation of them.  

That wrapped up our busiest week, which was a hell of a lot of fun. We only had a few shows left, and I felt we really had our material mastered at that point. I was really looking forward to that last week because my wife Michelle would be joining us for the last few shows.

For some reason, the subject of Anko's 1970's-looking clothing came up. Helga brought a couple of wild specimens downstairs for us to see and we got motivated! The next day, we had our own fancy shirts (very 2018-looking). Now we just needed somewhere fancy to go . . .

Top: Anko's fancy 1970's-looking shirts. Bottom: Dudley, Kasey and Marty rise to the occasion

So, with "fancy shirt" Monday behind us, we made the short drive across the boarder to Uelsen, Germany for a show at the UJC - a rec center of sorts. The weather was fantastic and they were grilling food in the courtyard. We played our sets and people wandered in to watch. Yeah, it was a Tuesday.

Wednesday was a day off and Kasey and I headed into Enschede to walk around the cafés and shops, enjoying the sunshine. Marty stayed back at Anko's and soaked up the rays, getting a brief break from the Americans, hahahaha. 

Thursday morning I got up early and took the train to Schipol Airport (the Dutch say 'skipple') to pick up Michelle. The first day in Europe is a bit tough when traveling form the US because you are essentially up all night, so we let her take a nap while milled about the Lammers compound. Our gig that night was at a place called Sally O'Briens in Zwolle, about a 45 minute drive to the west. After Michelle's nap, we headed out.

It is an Irish pub with a nice stage and decent food. I had the ribs, which were quite good compared to regular bar fare. Eating in the EU for me is a bit tough because of the lack of available fiber. We get a lot of meals that are included with our hotel stay and provided by venues, so we don't always get to choose what we get. Plus, I don't eat any milk, cheese, yogurt or mayonnaise which can be tough if the venue has prepared lasagna or some such. We do have a rider that asks for a lactose-free meal, but not everyone reads it. Also, Kasey was doing his best to not eat meat which was tricky as well. Every once in a while a French waiter will look at me like I have leprosy or something when I tell them that I don't eat cheese. "Sans fromage?!" Usually I lose a few pounds on tours, but somehow I must have eaten enough fries this trip (it seems that you get fries and mayonnaise with every meal whether you want it or not).

The show that night was good for a Thursday, and I especially enjoyed showing off our "skills" for Michelle while she struggled mightily to stay awake. She handles the merch sales for us, which is great because we sell at least 25% more stuff!

The next day was a holiday across Europe celebrating winning the war against the Nazis, and we participated by going to a service at a Canadian cemetery nearby. The service was delivered in Dutch, French and English which was interesting and certainly good for us so we knew what they were saying. The weather was perfect, and we were glad to have gone. We capped the day with a fancy dinner where we all wore our fancy shirts!

Canadian Cemetery

Friday we made the two plus hour drive to Rotterdam and checked into the Marriott. Every once in a while I spring for a higher-quality hotel and this seemed like a good night to do it. That day was a mixture of deep sadness and joy for me. I learned on the way to the venue that my mother had just passed away. I knew that she was close to death and expected that she would pass while I was on this tour. I visited mom for a few days before the tour started because she had just been admitted to the ICU. She had advanced alzheimer's and the disease was really taking it's toll on her. Even though I was expecting to get this news, receiving the call from my brother was heartbreaking.

I was in a bit of a fog as the boys loaded in, but I knew the best thing for me to do was carry on. So we played the show that night, dedicating the performance to my mom, Allison Eden. Somehow it was the best show of the tour. I imagined her watching us play, and being proud of all of us for doing a good job. Though the venue, l'Espirit, was small, it was packed and the crowd was the most enthusiastic one we had played to on the tour. We will be posting a lot of videos from that night on my YouTube page.

 

Me, Marty and Kasey playing l'Espirit in Rotterdam

The last show of the tour was in our "home town" of Almelo. We have played Almelo at least five times over the years and twice before at Café de Stam. Anko and some of the Beggar's Clan guys were there along with a nice Sunday afternoon crowd. It was a great way to end our six weeks of shows and traveling. 

While the boys headed back home, Michelle and I made the most of the excellent wether with a few nights in Prague before returning to Cincinnati.

Me and Michelle in Prague

Summer Rain Tour - Fall 2017 

After touring around northern Europe seven times, I felt quite comfortable starting the eighth tour. I was a bit intimidated driving around these foreign countries at first, but now I have the hang of it and even know what most of the road signs mean, heh. I know when to obey the speed limit signs, and when to get the hell over in the right lane on the Autobahn (ALWAYS keep an eye on the rear-view mirrors!) 

Every time I play there I win a few more fans, and the shows get bigger and bigger. I see a lot of the same smiling faces, and get introduced to new ones. I have gotten to know the people that work at the hotels and venues, and know the best places to sight see, eat and shop. Several times on this last tour I recognize people on the streets of Almelo, NL and catch up on the latest news. 

But the coolest thing is developing great friendships with the people I work with. I count my European friends among my best. These are the kinds of things that you just don’t get as easily as a tourist. With each subsequent visit, the pleasure of it all increases greatly! 

And the big bonus this time was having my lovely wife Michelle come out for the last four gigs, which was a first for her! Now that our kids are grown and out of the house, we don’t have to hold down the fort during the school year. 

For this tour, the lineup included John Kessler on bass and Carl Martin on drums. 

NOTE FROM JOHN:

This was my 6th trip to Europe with Dudley and we had such a busy performing schedule there was very little time for sightseeing. In the past we’ve had days off in Amsterdam and Berlin, but this time the few days off were reserved for driving, eating and driving. And laundry. 

Don’t take this simple thing for granted. 

It’s not customary in Europe to find coin laundromats like we have in the US. Luckily we have Anko and Helga, our Dutch friends in Almelo, who have been our saving grace on these trips. In addition to feeding us, and giving us a place to rehearse and stay, they have an actual washing machine. The labels are all in Dutch and I don’t think we’ve ever really figured out what all the buttons do but we somehow always manage to make it work. 

Of course, it’s also not customary in Europe to have a clothes dryer, so laundry day also means finding creative ways to hang things to dry. They have a large drying rack but not nearly enough space for a week’s laundry for 3 guys. So curtain rods, microphone stands, bicycles all become essential aids in getting things dry in time to pack up and head out for the next run of shows. - John Kessler

I arrived a day earlier than usual to get the time-change recovery started and work with Ralf Reichen at Tonehunter to set up a permanent pedalboard for me. After so many tours, I felt it would be good to have my own after borrowing Ralf’s stuff for so long! I brought a few pedals that I knew I would end up leaving there, along with ones that I couldn’t (hello Klon Centaur). 

The first night I stayed with the Reichens at their house in Cologne, Germany. We had a great dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the area, Restaurant im Bitzhof. Their schnitzel is fantastic, and they have a great selection of beers and whiskey. (Normally a tequila drinker, I switch to whiskey in the EU.) Joining me were Ralf and Kristin and their daughter Tarika and her BF Nico. After dinner Ralf and I jammed on acoustics and just about drained a nice bottle of Glenalba. (Note to self: a lot of whiskey + jet lag = not good!) 

The next day Ralf assembled the pedal board for me while I went to the giant (and generically named) Music Store to get some gaff tape and other supplies. 

Here’s Ralf with the finished board: 

"Tonehunter" Ralf Reichen

Then I drove up to Almelo to pick up John and Carl from the train station and head to Anko and Helga’s house in Vriezenveen. They were pretty tired, and faced a nine-hour time change vs my six, but had the energy to set up the gear and rehearse a bit. That night, we had a great time catching up with Anko and Helga, and of course had some great whiskey (note to self: read the previous note to self!). 

Whiskey Jam with Ralf

The following day we rehearsed for about six hours, going over a lot of songs off the new album Summer Rain to add to the set list. We took a break and had some lunch in nearby Almelo. Downtown Almelo feels like my Dutch ‘hometown’. I think I’ve eaten at every restaurant there, played three clubs, bought jewelry for my wife, dress shirts for me, luggage, plastic bins for t-shirts, etc.. There aren’t many tourists, or Americans there so we all stand out. We know many of the restaurant operators by their first names, and everyone is quite welcoming. 

After rehearsing the new songs and recovering from jet lag, we headed to Poland. Our first show was in Sandomierz, which was about a ten to eleven hour drive. That's not a good way to start a tour, so we opted to drive about eight hours to Łódź. (I dare you, try to pronounce that!) I like to check into the hotel before dinner time, freshen up then get a good meal. You have to take care of yourself so you don't arrive to the first gig totally burned out.

Sandomierz was about a 3 1/2 hour drive, so we checked out around noon (very civilized) and arrived in time for a quick tour of the old city. 

NOTE FROM JOHN:

We did get to do some sightseeing on the day of our very first show in Sandomierz Poland, Despite a pretty tall and wide language barrier, our guide Beata conveyed some facts like we were in a 1,000 year old walled city (“millenary” she told us) and the location of endless sieges and conquests for most of those thousand years. Knights in armor, feudal lords, the whole thing. She took us to the top of a castle tower where we re-enacted a scene from Monty Python’s Holy Grail. We asked a couple of young Polish women to tell us something about their country they said “We eat a lot of meat”. And they do manage to get meat into some unexpected places, like pastries and the milky breakfast soup with tiny sausages- John Kessler

The old Polish City of Sandomierz dates back to the 1200's

Interestingly, we played in the town hall in the city center...

In Poland they always have excellent sound, staging and lights (technik), even in smaller venues. This place was intimate; when we arrived I thought we would have to set up on the floor and all the hard surfaces would have given us grief when we started blasting away. However, a box truck arrived and the tech guys set up a great stage in about an hour. For some reason, most of the venues we play in Poland have seats, and they set up a bunch of chairs.

The stage in Sandomierz

They packed 'em in that night, and we were off to a great start! The new songs seemed to go over well. We opened with Dark Blue Star into Pistols at Ten Paces off the new Summer Rain album. 

For some odd reason, in Poland there are a lot of doors between where you are and where you want to go. For example, in many restaurants the bathrooms are down stairs. You open a door to the stairs, a door to the bathrooms, a door to the men's room, then a door to the toilets and urinals. Someone is making a ton of money off of hinges I guess. The doors to our rooms in the Cultural Center that night proved to be a bit tricky!

The Doors of Sandomierz

The next day, we headed over to Tarnobrzeg to play the Satyr Blues Festival again and see our main man, Victor Czura! Victor was the guy who contacted me on Facebook back in early 2014, and opened the Poland market for us. He hosts this festival every year, and has caricature artists display their art, and most of them are on hand for the show and do quick sketches of people. He always seems to get on Polish television because his event is so different. He loves blues rock and lead guitar! Hw hosts a radio show in nearby Rzeszow called Blues Attack! I have so many pieces of memorabilia from the 2014 show - my caricature by multiple artists, and Victor himself. I have beer bottles with my face on them, stamps, candy, etc... it really is amazing!

This time we played with a French band called Manu Lanvin and the Devil Blues- a fantastic trio that delivers high energy blues rock. They also had a couple of guitar players join them onstage - Neal Black and Fred Chapillier. Joining our band onstage was a Polish guitar slinger named Jacek Kieller. Lots of LEAD GUITAR that night! Here are a few pics:

Right before the encore, Victor Czura is on the far right.

The have a great venue: big stage, great sound and lights

With Jacek Kieller

Of course there were lots of funny caricatures - like these:

And this guy drew one of me:

Wow! Look at my nose. Hahahaha

This festival is always fantastic. Victor and his lovely wife Ewa and their team always deliver a well-planned evening of music and art. And they are very sweet people that I count among my best friends!

Victor Czura

From Tarnobrzeg, we made the short drive on Sunday to our next gig in Kielce. This would be a the Culture Center- the theater where we played our first gig in Poland back in 2014. We also played that night with Manu Lanvin and Devil Blues. Below is a short video of the drive to Kielce. It gives you an idea of what most of the drives in Poland are like. Lots of country roads like this one. There are big expressways, but if you do any traveling in the country this is what it looks like.

Country road in Poland

We have played Kielce a few time now, and have made some great friends there- it is quite nice to have repeat customers!

Working the Merchandise after the show in Kilece

After a nice night's sleep, we set out for a day off in Berlin. We stayed at an amazing hotel (thanks to a bunch of Marriott rewards points I used) called the Hotel Am Steinplatz. If you visit there someday, this hotel is awesome. Like I said, killing yourself with 12+ hours of driving is not a good idea. We checked out at noon, hit a music store to pick up a drum head and headed back to Castle Lammers, our Dutch HQ.

The lovely outdoor lounge at Anko and Helga's house in Vriezenveen

NOTE FROM JOHN:

Eating while on tour is often amazing, but occasionally memorable for the wrong reasons. There was the amazing restaurant that had no menu. The waiter said “You tell us what you would like to eat and we fix it for you. For example you could say ‘fish’ or ‘beef’.” When we tried to get more details, he informed us that the dish would be a surprise. It was surprisingly good. - John Kessler

A nice day of rest and a bit of shopping in Almelo, and we were ready for a busy weekend of shows. We started with a Thursday night gig at a record store called Vinylparadijs (Vinyl Paradise) in nearby Geesteren. Irma and Bart Haselbekke took great care of us while we played a couple of acoustic sets. We had a blast pulling out some oldies for this gig. I saw a lot of Neil Young and Lou Reed and David Bowie records, so we played "Needle and the Damage Done," "Heart of Gold," "Space Oddity," "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Sweet Jane" among some other fun acoustic stuff. It was a breath of fresh air among all of the electric blues rocking we do!

L-R: John Kessler, Irma Haselbekke-Veenstra, Dudley Taft, Bart Haselbekke and Carl Martin at Vinylparadijs

After the Vinylparadijs gig, we drove into Almelo and John and I played a few acoustic numbers for an enthusiastic crowd at the Café Belgie.I got us lost along the way, but we ran into a blues lover named Will. He escorted us to the bar!

Lost and unlost in Almelo with our new friend Will

The next night we took a short drive up to Essen and played a beer festival. I think our drummer Carl was in heaven. Lots of interesting local micro-brews from the Groningen area. We played a couple of short sets on a tiny stage.

Our next gig was with our good friend Udo Löw in southern Germany, right on the French boarder. We have played with his band, Thorny Roses a few times in and around Saarbrüken, which is one of my favorite German towns to hang out in. They organized a cool show in a school gymnasium with a huge stage and lights. We saw quite a few people that we have seen down there before, including our French friends Noah and Manu Drui. One guy drove his motorcycle all the way down there from the Cologne area- about a three hour trip. He asked me to let him know if we ever play near Cologne, and I said "Yeah, we play Leverkusen next Saturday!" His jaw dropped because Leverkusen is about 30 minutes from Cologne. Hahahaha! 

After a good night's sleep at Udo's farm house, we headed back up to Vriezenveen to play a mid-day Sunday gig at the Het Wapen. This is where we recorded some of our Live in Europe CD back in 2015. This time we played outside, enjoyed some barbecue and beers, and enjoyed the help of Anko & Helga who took care of the merch!

Playing outside at the Het Wapen in Vriezenveen

Helga and Anko Lammers (Our Dutch Family)

It is a bit unusual to have a Monday gig, but we were happy to return to Café de Stier in Eibergen, which is a short drive from Vriezenveen. We played there last spring, and they were having the same sort of shut-down-the-town festival that starts on a Friday and runs through Tuesday. (We could use more of this stuff in the US!) It was a bit funny- I asked the guy who runs the bar, Sander, if we could come back in the fall, and he told me that "No, we don't have the same bands play in the same year, or even next year. Every two years is about right." But there we were, six months after our last show there. And after our show, Sander told us that we definitely will come back next year, and headline on a Saturday night! Hahahaha... Like usual, we did see many of the same people as before, but we had a much better response this time, and were joined by our good friend Nineke Loedemann who, along with a couple other people, run the Dutch website BluesMagazine.nl. She was my first interview on my first tour in 2012 before we played our first show in Europe!

The stage at Café de Stier

Nineke Loedeman from Blues Magazine NL

The next day, we relaxed at "Castle Lammers" and did next to nothing, which was fantastic. Carl and I decided to get a fire going in their fire pit (Anko was at work), and we enjoyed the fire and tried to drink as much beer as possible.

Stoking the fire in Vriezenveen

Then finally, the moment I had been waiting five year for: my beautiful wife Michelle joined us on the tour! She arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam early on Wednesday, and I got up early to take the train out to meet her. She recovered from the time change a lot quicker than John, Carl and I did! That night we were happy to take our hosts out to a nice dinner, but before that she opened a nice gift from Victor and Ewa Czura - a cool amber necklace!

Thanks for the Amber!

I scheduled a photo shoot the next morning with Stefan Schipper - a world-class photographer who is based in Vriezenveen. He has taken the cover photos for my last two studio albums, and I figured we could get some great shots for the next CD. (Stay tuned for that.) He asked Michelle to jump in there, and we got some great shots! Thank you Stefan!

Photo by Stefan Schipper

Our first "show" with Michelle was a live radio performance in Ridderkerk, near Rotterdam. We played for bluezy.nl and did a short interview. Anko and Helga came along, and we enjoyed some whiskey after the show in our hotel. We all slept well, and were able to hang out at the hotel until noon. The drive to Leverkusen was short, and we were able to check in early and walk around the city center and mall. We were ready to go when Topos opened up for load in.

This place has to be one of the strangest venues I have played in the EU. It is very small with a tiny stage, and the seating there is just plain weird. We did pretty well the last time we played there, which was in 2016. But I wasn't too excited to come back - it gets really hot in there, and the pay is underwhelming. Also, the sounds guy told me their new neighbor, whose bedroom shares a wall with the stage (?!) had been complaining about the volume, and if they got another visit from the Polizei the whole bar would be shut down. I thought to myself, "get ready for the LAST show here!" BUT, we did keep he volume down and it ended up being one of my favorite shows from the tour. First, check out the uh, seating arrangement:

Topos in Leverkusen

Looks like paper mache seating. That can't be comfortable! Somehow they packed about 40 to 50 people in there. In between sets, we sold a ton of CDs and T-Shirts. I barely had time to use the bathroom before we had to start the second set. Our good friend Marco Zwillich, who has seen us on just about every tour, requested we play "Left For Dead" so we did, although we had not played it in quite some time. That went over well, and I remember we played an especially good version of "Deep Deep Blue" that night. 

Hanging with Marco Zwillich after the show

The third show that Michelle joined us for was a short drive back the way we came (this happens a lot on tour) to a town called Waalwijk (wall-why-k). We played a small bar called Jay's Biercafé in the town center. There was a small crowd, including a guy that was at the radio show in Ridderkerk at the bar (Jan VanderEnt). The owner, Jeroen Lammers (no relation to Anko) seemed to like us a lot, and asked us if we could play a bigger room next time upstairs, and also at his new bar which will be opening in November in nearby Tilburg. 

Rocking Jay's Biercafé in Waalwijk. Picture by Jan VanderEnt

Set List from Waalwijk

For the last show of the tour, we drove back to Germany to a town called Mönchengladbach for an early Sunday show to benefit sick children. We played with Simon McBride, an Irish blues rocker. It was a fun last set of the tour on a big stage. Michelle helped us sell some merch, and afterwards the hosts invited us to a nice dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, where the owners treated us all like nobility, and served up some killer pasta.

Michelle and John Kessler at the merch booth in Mönchengladbach

Our hosts at the restaurant in Mönchengladbach carve up some cheese

NOTE FROM JOHN:

There was the amazing midnight dinner at an Italian restaurant where the chef and his wife fussed over us while preparing a dish at the table that involved pouring hot pasta onto a giant wheel of cheese. Speaking of cheese, there was the restaurant where we repeatedly asked for no cheese and received extra cheese. - John Kessler

YES! Another great tour under our belts. As usual, we had a great time. We are quite lucky to have such good friends in the EU. That's more than half the fun - and something that average tourists do not get easily. Planning for the 9th tour is underway, so keep your eye on my shows page for details about the Spring 2018 tour!

So, I kept passing this sign in Almelo, and my brain is not really good at reading Dutch. It tries to make sense of long, weird words. So I kept thinking about the snoring battles that raged every night in John and Carl's room (they are roommates partly because of this specious talent). I thought of them as:

SNORE FIGHT-STERS

NOTE FROM JOHN:

We were occasionally saved by our own PB & J sandwiches, much to the horror of our Dutch hosts. For some unknown reason, in their culture combining peanut butter and jelly is like putting horseradish on ice cream, literally horrifying. They eat peanut butter and they eat jelly but never together. We find that it tastes best at 2 in the morning. With beer. - John Kessler

Peanut Butter and Jelly at 2 AM

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Summer Rain Blog 

Time sure seems to fly on by. Since starting my own band in 2008, a lot has happened. I left Seattle in 2011, lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for two years and in Cincinnati, Ohio for four. During that time I have somehow managed to make six albums, one live and five in the studio. 

Last month I finished my fifth studio album, Summer Rain. After writing 50+ songs in this “blues rock” genre, I feel like I am settled and comfortable in what I can come up with. Not that it is easy to do, quite the contrary; it is very difficult! Hahaha, but I feel like I can just trust my instincts and follow the muse of each song. 

I wrote about 25 or so songs, and settled on 11 for the CD. I didn’t have any particular cover song that I was excited about doing, so I didn’t record one. 

I used the same modus operandi as the last CD: I developed nascent song ideas I had recorded on my iPhone with my drummers and bassist in the studio and recorded a few takes of each, using the best. I spoke with my main studio drummer, Jason Patterson last night. He had just received the copy of Summer Rain that I sent him, and he said “Man, a lot of that stuff was just off the cuff.” That was the vibe I was going for. Somehow our joy of discovery translates through the finished mixes. 

I sure don’t record a record in a week or two, like a lot of artists do. I take a lot of time with my songs (it’s a luxury for me to have my own world-class studio in my house). I will get the basic tracks down, make a rough mix and listen to it in the car for weeks and try to come up with melodies and lyrics. Somehow “sleeping on” these tunes helps my brain figure out where I need to go with them. 

The title track, "Summer Rain" came from some chords I discovered on a family trip to Hawaii in 2015. I sat on that one for a while, and eventually pulled it out when I had my boys in the studio. Local drummer boy Mike Tapogna played on that one. I believe it was the second take that we kept. It felt natural and fun, especially transitioning to the epilogue section in the end. The riff from "Don't Let it Fade" came to me on another beach in the Bahamas. Must be something about being near the ocean that inspires me!

I was exercising, listening to some Rolling Stones on Pandora, and Mick sang the lyric “It’s sure been a cold, cold winter” and I thought yeah, but for some people it’s been a long hot summer. As I continued my workout I thought of the young military personnel that take tours of duty in hellish places like Iraq and Afghanistan. This thought kept coming back to me as I wrote the lyrics for the record. I didn’t want to write a literal account of military service, because I have never served. I did want to try to put myself in their boots and explore what their feelings would be when away from home for so long. That is the thread that links all the songs together. 

I asked Reese Wynans if he would record keys for me again, and he was enthusiastic about it. He played on Screaming in the Wind and Skin and Bones so he was familiar with my music. This album is less blues and more rock, so I was a bit worried, haha. But he really enjoyed playing on “Live or Die” and especially “Moonbeam.” While I was in Nashville recording his parts, I asked Rachel Williams to sing background vocals for me, and luckily she was in town. She works fast and figures out harmonies with me quickly. So the overdubs were easy! 

Check out this video Kasey made of the overdub sessions. 

I have a great arsenal of tube amplifiers to choose from for tracking guitars. In the past few years I have acquired a ’66 Fender Deluxe, a ’66 Fender Bassman, and the Tonehunter TNT head, which is based on a Marshall Plexi. I used these amps on most of the tracks. I always record the guitars with a combination of a Royer ribbon mic and a Heil PR30, which sounds like a Shure 57 on steroids. The tracks sound great when I run them through a Manley Variable MU.

I have been using my KLON Centaur quite a bit, and some other pedals that made appearances are the Tonehunter Fuzzmonics (which I helped name!), the Zen drive, Xotic EP boost, Fulltone OCD, a Dunlop Rotovibe pedal (the red one that looks like a wah) and the Strymon Lex. 

Oh pedals. I have so many and just love trying new ones. I geek out on “rig rundowns” and pedal shootouts on YouTube! They all react differently in different situations… 

The artwork on the CD I did myself (I wear almost ALL the hats). The photos were taken at my good friend Anko Lammers’ house in Vriezenveen, a small town in the Dutch countryside. An amazing photographer, Stefan Schipper, lives down the road a stretch and he took the shots in front of Anko’s work shed. The studio shot for the last CD, Skin and Bones were also done by him in his studio. Thanks Stefan!! 

Stefan takes the best photos!

I am so lucky to have such a killer studio in the basement – and feel a great deal of gratitude towards Peter Frampton because the price of this house did not reflect the amount of money he spent on the setup. The house was listed for over a year with no offers, and he was just taking it off the market when we made our offer. 

I ended up buying the SSL console from him, which made the most sense because it is a complicated project to move those beasts! He bought a studio in Nashville that had a nice board in it so he didn’t need it anymore. I also bought some microphones and outboard gear that he didn’t want for a great price. He left quite a bit of gear in the studio including a fantastic headphone monitoring system, saying simply that it just “came with the studio.” 

I keep in touch with him, and he is very happy that the studio is being used. I was in Nashville in late May and got to see his fantastic new studio where I played him “Live or Die” off the new CD. He said “very good” – so now I have the blessing of a British invasion superstar! Hahahaha… 

He played me his new song “I Saved a Bird Today” which is quite excellent.

Me and Peter Frampton

The album will be available September 15th from my website, CDBaby, Amazon and on just about every streaming service out there. Please give it a listen!

2016 European Tour Blog Supplimental 

Like I said, the weather was fantastic and I thought planning the tour around my birthday would allow us all a chance to do some traveling and exploring that we couldn't do while playing shows. The boys went on their own adventures. This is from Kasey:
 

The Netherlands, Germany, and Poland. Three places I never knew I’d have the pleasure of visiting let alone where I would have the privilege of getting to play on some of the greatest stages for some of the best crowds for whom I’ve been able to perform. Dudley and I, and the other gentlemen in the band; Carl Martin (drums), Eric Robert (keys), were in Europe for approximately six weeks. In the middle of those six weeks Dudley planned on celebrating his birthday in Italy.

While he was gone it was up to the three of us to decide what to do with our time off. Our home base was in Vriezenveen just outside of Almelo, in the Netherlands. I’m sure our amazing hosts, Helga and Anko Lammers, would have been okay with us bumming around for a week but we decided to hit the road, or the train so to speak. 
I love Carl and Eric but I decided to strike out on my own. Hopefully they’ve written about their adventures in detail. They shared some stories when they returned but I’m sure they saved the best tales for you fine folk reading this blog.

DT4Life! Do Dudley supporters/fans have a name? Like “Parrotheads” or “Deadheads?” Why does the suffix always have to be “head?” Why can’t it “hand” or “feet?” While we’re at it why does it have to be any body part? “I’m a DT Football!” “DTFB!” But I digress. 
After a van ride to the station with Carl and Eric I went about the beginning of my week long solo adventure. First stop: Amsterdam. 
And a week later I returned, the end… 

: )

Wait, no, I was in Amsterdam for three days and two nights. 


Monday, July 4th:

I arrive at Amsterdam Central around 11:00am. Walking the cobblestone streets my first mission is to find my hotel. Whenever I’m on a trip I don’t really plan too far in advance. I had found a room online and booked it the night before. Aside from that I have no agenda. I’m immediately struck by the beauty of the architecture and the layout of the canals. 

Amsterdam Canals

Amsterdam Central

Might as well not beat around the bush (I’ll stop with the puns now) but I didn’t realize that the “Red Light District” is so large and is mixed in with everyday fair like clothing stores and food establishments. I’d always assumed, like any American who doesn’t do any research, that it was located in its own separate section. As I walk further I see “Coffeeshops”, a “Banana Bar”, and the “Red Light Secrets Museum.” 
After a couple of hours of walking I find my hotel. You have to ring a bell and be buzzed in to enter. I make my way up the steep staircase to find myself confronted with another steep staircase. A few things I noticed while I was in Europe:


1. Lots of stairs. Steep stairs that go on for days 
2. No air conditioning. If you go to a mall or some restaurants you’ll find it but good luck when you get to your room.
Open a window and hope for a breeze 
3. I have a theory that there are five garbage cans in Europe. Wait, I counted a sixth one on the day I left.
Yes, there are six trash receptacles in all of Europe. 
4. This list is in no way hyperbolic 

When I find the front desk I’m given a key to my room then I’m instructed that whenever I leave I need to return the key and then when I come back they will give the key back to me so that I may enter my room. I thank the man behind the counter and as I make my way up yet another flight of stairs I think to myself “I guess maybe people get too trashed when they leave and the hotel has put out too much money in replacing lost keys. That, or people are murdered and the murderer goes back to the hotel and robs the room.”  Either way I didn’t sweat it. 
That night I make my way around town. If you ask me in person I’ll tell you all about it. 


Tuesday, July 5th: 

I take a walk down to the Van Gogh museum. It’s so cool to get to see the progression of a man that worked diligently to become a master of his craft. I didn’t know that he began painting at the age of 27 and only painted for ten years. I also visit the Anne Frank House. It’s pretty humbling getting to be inside of such a historically significant place. Seeing the actual diaries was something I was not expecting. 

Wednesday, July 6th: 

I take the train to Brugge (Bruges) in Belgium. It’s such a nice city! I’m a big fan of the film “In Bruges” and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a big reason why I went there. The top of the Belfry has a great view. But save your money on the Dali exhibit, they’re all pretty much reprints. I go to bed kind of early but the late night EDM dance party around the corner continues on through the night. I fall asleep to the soothing sounds of Dubstep.

Belfry of Bruges

 

Thursday, July 7th: 

I arrive in Brussels. There is nothing in Brussels. 

Friday, July 8th: 

Paris, France! This is my last stop on my week long solo journey. The first thing I do when I arrive is find a taxi. I speak to a gentleman about a ride and he says “Follow me.” I start walking to the first vehicle in a long row of taxi’s but he says “No, this way.” I quickly realize that we’re walking to a motorcycle. He pulls out a helmet from the back storage compartment and says “Put this on.” I do, then we hop on the bike and he asks me where I’d like to go. I say “The Eiffel Tower.” We proceed to whip around Paris like we just robbed a bank. I feel like Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” but we’re going faster than any Vespa. He drops me off right at the base of the Tower. It was pretty spectacular to see in person. I wait in line and the moon is out by the time I reach the top. The view is breathtaking.

The Eiffel Tower

View from the Eiffel Tower


I had earlier contacted my friend Taylor, who lives in Paris, about staying at her place. I make my way there and after a bit of catching up I crash.

Saturday, July 9th: 

After recording a podcast with Taylor she takes me to the subway and instructs me on how to navigate it and the city. This is the absolute best thing she could have done for me. I was able to make my way around the entire city. I see so many breath-taking sights, I can see why Taylor wants to live here. 

Sacré-Cœur, Paris


Sunday, July 10th: 

I say goodbye to Paris and head back to Almelo. It was a spectacular trip and I hope to see more of Europe very soon. 
  
I’d like to say thanks to Dudley for letting me be a part of his tour. Thanks to Carl for holding it down every show, and those times when he eventually stopped snoring when we shared a room. Thanks also goes out to Eric for rocking every performance and driving when no one else could/should. 
Until next time, 

Kasey “DTFB!” Williams

 

Well, I'm not sure about the whole Dudley Taft Football thingy, (how about DudHeads?). While Kasey was stumbling around these great cities, I reserved a villa on Lake Como in Italy for a week, where I was joined by my wife and three daughters and my father and step-mother. Anko and Helga came down to celebrate with me, as did Ralf and Kristin Reichen (the Tonehunter family) with their daughter Tarika as well. This made for a fantastic international birthday celebration for me!

The view from our villa, which sat on a hill just south of Varenna was breathtaking:

The view of Lake Como from our Villa

Sunset on Lake Como

Birthday Gifts from Anko and Helga Lammers!

Panoramic Photo from the Castle above Varenna

My Birthday Dinner
L to R: Anko and Helga Lammers, Ralf, Kristin and Tarika Reichen (seated)
Me and my wife Michelle, Dudley Taft Sr. and Tina Taft, Kaitlin Taft and Ashley Christensen

My daughters on the Ferry (L to R: Ashley, Kaitlin and Zoie)

The details of my week of are much too boring to read but were very pleasant! Lots of swimming, sightseeing, dining and dancing, eating and drinking! We added one extra night in Milan to the trip. Some call it the fashion capital of Europe, and we had fun walking around downtown and looking at all the fancy couture boutiques (and trying not to spend too much!)

Me and Michelle in Milan

Now, let's check in with the other guys and see what they were up to. This next bit is from Carl:

So this tour came with and added bonus.  As if playing night after night overseas wasn’t enough fun, we had a week off about midway through the tour.  We were able to cover a lot of miles and see a great deal of cool sites in a reasonably short time. Kasey was eager to set off on his own and explore so Eric and I travelled to Brugge, Belgium where we dived headfirst into the impressive beer culture there.

Carl Loves Beer

Eric Loves Waffles


The  first restaurant we stopped at offered 400 beers to choose from.  So, we stayed awhile!  A highlight came later at a bottle shop were we found what is often considered, “the world’s best beer”.  It is the Trappist Westvleteren 12.  We just had to take a bottle with us and we opened it at our next destination, Calais, on the Coast of France.  We stayed at a little AirB&B in town with a very entertaining host.  He even made us cake.  From there we thought we’d better make the 1 ½ hour ferry crossing to England and see the Cliffs of Dover, much to the dismay of nearly everyone we told!  The British border agent thought we were nuts. He informed us that if we were going just to see the cliffs that we were going to be underwhelmed!  He was wrong.  We loved it.

Cliffs of Dover
 
We returned after a fun afternoon of walking around Dover and spent one more night in Calais.  The next day we began our journey back to our European home, Vrizenveen, NL.  We had a few more nights to hang there with Anko and Helga before the rest of the band returned.  Definitely a time we will never forget!

Calais...

NEXT UP:

The Bikers of Ommen and a million Acoustic Guitars!

 

2016 European Tour Blog Part 2 

After our first few Polish shows and a long drive, we made it back to our Dutch HQ: Castle Lammers.  Our hosts, Anko and Helga always take great care of us. We had one day off there to do a little laundry and get organized.

One thing that I really messed up on this trip was making sure I had an accurate accounting of what merchandise we had to sell at our shows. Luckily, we had enough CDs but I made the mistake of thinking we had a lot of t-shirts left, which we didn't. Oops. When we were in Poland we sold a lot of CDs, but I had no t-shirts whatsoever! So I called my buddy Heiko at Hamburg Records. They have done the shirts for all the tours, and had all the designs and silkscreen masters saved there. They made us 150 shirts in very short order and had them shipped to Anko's. They arrived on our day off, and we were able to get those organized for the rest of the tour.

A local newspaper guy named Tom van den Berg came out and interviewed Anko and me about our friendship over the years:

Interview and photos at Castle Lammers

Our next gig was a short drive away at the famous Bluescafé Apeldoorn- they have some hardcore blues fans that frequent this place, and it has been hosting 200 shows a year for more than twenty years. We played on a Wednesday, and the turnout was just ok, but we had a lot of fun...

"Oh Well" at Bluescafé Apeldoorn. Using our new LED floor lights for the first time! Hahaha

We had tried to fill that Thursday, but nothing came through so we spent another day at Castle Lammers. The weather was really nice and they have a great yard there, so we hung out outside a lot and watched the squirrels.

The Squirrel of Lammers

That weekend we drove out to the coast to Middelburg, Zeeland which is south of Rotterdam and The Hague. We played there last year at another bar, and had a good time, so we thought this would be a good gig. However, it turned out to be one of those crappy gigs that I would like to forget about. The bar was small, with almost no room to set up (so stage to speak of). We set up by the emergency exit, and loaded in through the back door brining our stuff through a very trashy alleyway and garbage filled back patio. 

Middelburg is one of those towns where it is challenging to park- it gets a lot of tourists because it is on the coast near the ocean. The bar owner told us we could just park in the alley "Don't worry about it," he said. Well, it only took about an hour before we got a €99 ticket. He told us not to pay it! The parking people are scoundrels he said. "Uh huh, great," was my reply. He also wanted us to play 3 sets which we never do. But we ran though a couple of extra songs that we knew, and planned on 3 sets (we aim to please). The gig was ok; the small crowd was happy. At least they had some interesting artwork:

Now, I would love a print of "King Bowie-tut" at home...
And the bathroom in Middelburg was pretty interesting:

Marilyn Monrolling Stones

Sometimes we leave our gear at the venue when there is no real secure parking, and we did so this time. But the owner showed up an hour late as we waited in front of the locked club the next morning to get our gear. "I overslept," he said. Oh boy. And, we got another ticket that morning. Damn! We were ready to flush that gig down the toilet and move on...

It was a short drive to Wateringen, near The Hague the next day and we arrived early. The venue was a podium provided by local government for shows and rehearsals and had a big stage with a nice sound and light system. We played last out of three bands, so it was nice to do just one 90 minute set! 
 
Nederlander 3 Show in Wateringen, NL

The Stage at Nederlander 3

Our Merch setup at Nederlander 3

It is important to mention that we had our new album, Live in Europe ready to go for this tour! We rely on merchandise sales to help pay the bills, and it was great to have four CDs and a couple of t-shirt designs. 

Our show that night was great with an enthusiastic crowd. The opening band was Never Trust from just north of Milan, Italy, and I excitedly told them I was going that way soon to celebrate my 50th birthday. They were doing a short string of dates, and its always good to compare notes with other bands that tour Europe. If you get a chance, google them.

The next day we drove up to a town called Bergen, on the peninsula north of Amsterdam to what would turn out to be one of my favorite gigs of the whole tour. This village was more 'upscale' than most Dutch villages, with high-end couture boutiques and fancy restaurants. The place we played was generically called De Taverne. It looks like we set up in grandma's living room... well, if grandma was into nude paintings.

The stage at De Taverne in Bergen, NL
 
It was one of those shows where everything went well- the band was very comfortable with the songs at this point, and I think we really killed it. There were about 110 people crammed in there and they were all engaged and enthusiastic. The weather was perfect! Kasey and I walked around for a little while in our black stage outfits and got some interesting looks... hahaha. We found a restaurant with a really unfortunate name:

We DID NOT eat there.
Here we are before the show getting our set list together:

Set List time at De Taverne in Bergen, NL

We stayed at a hotel out by the coast in Bergen aan Zee (Bergen on the sea) and checked out the beach.

Bergen aan Zee

Beach Boys

When first booking the tour, I was not going to take the festival shows in Poland because of the soccer championship matches. There were no shows available there for a week afterwards, because no one wants to book a band when everyone is watching soccer. But I am glad that I did (at the band's urging) because those shows were fantastic. The problem was that after this show we played in Bergen, we had to drive all the way back across the continent to Poland for another festival we were headlining, and one club gig. Oh well. We're American and are used to driving long distances! Tell a Dutchman that you're going to drive for 10 hours and he will think you are fucking nuts! Well, I suppose that we are; just look at us! Hahaha...

So we drove 932 kilometers (about 580 miles) to Poznan that day. We could have driven all the way to Warsaw, but it's nice to check into a hotel and get some dinner and relax. No point in killing ourselves! We have stayed at the Hotel Ikar several times on these tours, and played Poznan at least three times, so we know our way around and are very comfortable there. The city center is really quite nice and they have some great restaurants, pubs and clubs there.

Killer dinner for 4 people for about $80!

Beatiful night in Poznan City Center

The next night we had a gig in the center of Warsaw at a club called Beerokracja (literally beer-o-crat) which apparently is THE place to catch good blues when you are downtown. It is right off the main square and they take advantage of that with big billboard advertising, like times square:
 
How cool is that?!?!

My good friend Krzysztof Inglik who is the Editor-in-Chief of Magazyn Gitarzysta showed up and gave me a super-cool overdrive pedal made by Mark L Custom in Poland. We are both insane gear-heads and love to try everything we can get our hands on! Thanks Kris for the pedal. It was great to see him at the show (and when there are guitar dudes at the show it really pushes me to play my best). If you know my music, you might be interested to see what our set list looked like at that point:
 
Set List Warsaw
Warsaw is like any other big city; the hotels are expensive! I have had good luck at the Intercontinental hotels, and the one in Warsaw was very nice. We stayed there for 2 nights and had great views from our rooms:

View from our hotel

Eric always finds a piano!
 
The next day was a day off, and we hung out in the Old Town.

Old Town Warsaw. This was rebuilt after the destruction of World War II
 
Our next show was on Friday, and we had another day off (darn it). We headed north to Gdansk, which was pretty close to our outdoor festival gig. Gdansk was a highlight of our tour: the city was not damaged that much in the wars, and is very pretty. We had a blast there, and even got a canal/waterfront tour the next morning.

Gdansk City Center

Watching the Soccer match on a huge projection screen

Rain slicked streets of Gsansk

Sunset on the canal in Gdansk
Time to get back to work! We headed west to a small town called Katurzy where we checked in to our hotel. Some of the staff from the Blues w Leśniczówce festival met us there and we followed them to a camp in the middle of the woods. Man, we were really OUT THERE. I wondered who the hell would come all the way out there to see a show. But people kept coming in, and we had a nice crowd by the time the sun was setting. Backstage everyone was wound up and doing shots of whiskey. (I had a one sip!) Joe Columbo, a fantastic slide guitarist from Switzerland played there the night before and asked to jam with us, so we played a couple of tunes with him. He also played Victor Czura's Satyr Blues Festival, and we had heard a lot about him.

Me and Joe Columbo at the Blues w Leśniczówce Festival
We all had a blast and made some new friends!

Bass players united
 
The next day was the beginning of our mid-tour break. Eric drove me to the Gdansk airport where I caught a flight to Milan, Italy for a week with family and friends to celebrate my 50th birthday (oh man...50!). The rest of the guys drove back to Castle Lammers, parked the van and headed out on separate adventures.
 
NEXT UP: 10 days off in Europe

2016 European Tour Blog Part 1 

European Tour Blog 2016 Part 1 
  
It was a great time of year to play my 6th European tour! We had the best weather of any of these tours by far. Most of northern Europe where we play (Netherlands, Germany and Poland) is much further north than the American/Canadian boarder. Rome is about parallel with New York City, and Gdansk Poland is parallel with… well, there are no major cities that far north, but let’s say a few hundred miles north of Edmonton, Alberta. The point being, the weather is usually much cooler than what we are used to here in the US. So playing in June and July was fantastic because the temperatures averaged about 75º - 80º, and the sun was out! 
  
The Europeans love music festivals, and the summer is full of them. Most of the blues society venues are closed for the summer, so we ended up playing a few fantastic outdoor festivals. 
  
Our lineup for this tour had Carl Martin returning for his fourth tour with us on drums, Eric Robert on keyboards for his third, and since John Kessler could not join us Kasey Williams from Cincinnati played bass on his first trip across the pond. (Kasey's unique first impressions to come.)
  
As usual, I arrived first in Cologne, Germany to pick up much of the equipment that I keep at Ralf Reichen’s Tonehunter shop. He makes the best amplifiers and overdrive pedals! He also let’s me use his 1977 Tokai Les Paul, which is an amazing guitar. (One of the best “Les Pauls” I have ever played.) He is nice enough to let me keep our merchandise, powered monitors, cables and accessories at his place (oh yeah, and one of my hats!). After removing the back seat from the Mercedes Vito and loading up the van with the gear, I picked up Kasey at the Cologne airport the next morning, June 15th. 
  
It was fun to see Kasey’s reaction to all things European since it was his first trip. After 5 tours, I was getting pretty comfortable with moving around over there. This blog will have many of his observations, so keep reading! 
  
We always stop at the big music store in Cologne (called Music Store, haha) to get equipment we need for the shows, and we were out of gaffer tape and I thought it would be cool to get a few of those small LED lights to light up our stage setup in the smaller venues. Music Store is a huge place with 5 floors of stuff. They do a lot of internet business, but really have their wares dialed in. We ended up getting 4 LED lights. They are small and sit on the floor or on top of a speaker, and can really help light up some of the smaller club stages.
  
We drove to Vriezenveen (pronounced Free-zen-vein, and roll your r’s…) in the Dutch countryside where we stay with Anko and Helga Lammers. Anko is a drummer and is nice enough to let us use his kit for these tours. He also has a small flat above his garage where we stay on days off. I call this place Castle Lammers, or our European HQ. Anko and Helga make us feel very welcome there, and always have tons of food, beer and whiskey ready to go. Every year we stop at the store and get them a couple bottles of rare whiskey to add to their formidable collection.
  
Later that day I drove into Almelo, a slightly bigger town a few klicks down the road to pick up Carl and Eric at the train station. 
  
If you have read these blogs before, you know that we have a tradition of eating our first dinner together at the Shamrock restaurant in Almelo after a quick run-through of the songs. Luckily, everyone did their homework and practice went well. I wanted to make sure we all were well fed and rested for the next day’s marathon drive into Poland. They remember us there and think it's funny that we like Almelo. Well, it's hard not to; it is a small town and you can get everything you need right in the town center. We have eaten at almost all of the restaurants there, and have gotten to know a few of the locals.
  
Not wanting to kill ourselves on our first day of driving, we drove about 480 miles (771 kilometers) to Legnica, Poland and stayed in a decent hotel. Talking with the staff, we realized that we in the TV commercials for a festival we were playing that weekend in Nowa Deba… pretty cool! 
  

Legnica, Poland from our hotels' rooftop bar

The world cup soccer championship games were happening at this time, and the hotel bar was full with people watching the game on a huge screen. We tasted (uh, drank) some vodka and went to bed early, but were woken up by loud singing at about 1 am after the game... the Europeans certainly take their soccer (football) very seriously.

The next morning we headed east to the small town of Bochnia where we were to play our first gig in a theatre we played the year before. We stopped to get gas mid-morning, and Carl topped off the tank. After driving about 50 kilometers, the van suddenly lost power and a red 'safety' light came on! Uh oh. When I rented the van, the lady at the Enterprise rental desk told me to let them know if I planned to leave Germany. Well, I completely forgot about that until this happened. I called the number she gave me and said that we planned to drive to Poland that day. The guy on the other end of the line said "Oh no, you cannot do that, this is a big problem. Come back in and we will give you a Ford van that you can drive there." Apparently they have had some issues with Mercedes getting stolen outside of Germany. "Oh, ok. We will just stay here in Germany" I lied. So we had better figure out what's wrong with the van and fix it on our own.

We managed to limp the van to the venue, and checked all the fluids. But nothing looked unusual. Also, it only had about 3,000 kilometers on it so one would think it wouldn't break down.

Luckily, the drummer for the opening band was a car nut. He drove a new Camaro, and liked to burn rubber everywhere. We described the problem to him and he immediately determined that Carl put gasoline in our diesel van. "But the pump handle was green!" Carl said. In the US, diesel pump handles are green, but in Europe they are black! Oops. So the drummer guy, Wojciech (voy-check), arranged for the van to be serviced while we did sound check, which was lucky because it was about 4:15 on a Friday! The service guys picked up the van, removed the fuel tank, drained it, flushed the fuel system, replaced the fuel filter, re-assembled it and put in a 1/4 tank of diesel. And (pun intended) drumroll please... it cost us 380 złoty, which is about $75 <whew>. We called Carl "Captain Diesel" for a few days...

It was great to see the Lekki family, who arranged our show in Bochnia.

At the Kino Regis in Bochnia

Dudley & Piotr Lekki: fellow Beardsmen


That night we all went back to the hotel and had a late night meal. As a punitive measure, we volunteered Captain Diesel to try the raw steak!

Yummy! Steak Tartar

The next morning we were off to a city we had trouble pronouncing: Przeworsk. Our good friend Victor Czura (who runs the fantastic Satyr Blues Festival) helped us get this gig headlining the Przeworsk Blues Festival. (He is responsible for just about ALL of our shows in Poland so far.) We had an enthusiastic crowd and a big stage to work. They all treated us very well there, including the usual after-gig meal and this time they brought out the frozen vodka!

On stage at the Przeworsk Blues Festival 

Kasey Stares Down A Bee Onstage

Post-Gig Polish Spread

Frozen Vodka!

This guy - Peter Bonzo Radványi - drank more vodka than I have ever seen anyone drink, and still played fantastic slide guitar!

By the way, here's a couple of videos from that show if you are interested:


"Mojo Woman"

"Meet Me In The Morning"
 

Sampling some of the vodka sure was fun; but I made sure to severely limit the quantity! We had a show the next day and had to be in good condition. This reminds me to emphasize this to you dear reader, that when we roll into town to do a gig, our friends and fans have been looking forward to the show as a night to really cut loose. They treat it like a special occasion and party down! Well, that's tough for a touring band because we treat the gigs more like athletes- we need to be in shape and stay in shape. We can't go crazy every night or we would be toast in just a few days. So it is tough to be tempted with massive amounts of food and beer and booze. Moderation is the key to success! Hahaha.

Sunday shows usually have an early start time, but this festival was an exception. We had a short drive- about 1:45, and were able to check into the hotel and rest a bit before we headed for the stage. The festival was called Militariada, and celebrated military efforts of the Polish army from World War II and earlier. There were tanks, helmets, swords and historical performances. The bands that played were doing cover songs, which isn't all that surprising except that the 'biggest' band in Poland is famous for playing....covers! They opened up with a Whitesnake song and it was all downhill from there, IMHO. Somehow that just seems weird to me. Anyway, the show was exciting because it was the biggest crowd that I have ever played to as the lead singer of a band. The stage was huge and the crowd was kept about 25 feet away, so it really felt like we were playing AT the audience. It was a bit more work, but gratifying nonetheless. 

We all had fun walking around the fairgrounds before our set. Take a look:

A few pullups before the show!

OK Kasey, you're scaring the kids!

OK, Kasey now you're scaring ME!

What could be in this box?

Meeting of the Council in the backstage tent

Big crowd at the Militariada Festival!

Nowa Deba Miliratiada Festival Crowd

So we had a blast at our first 3 shows. Unfortunately, our other shows in Poland were two weeks later so we filled in those dates with gigs in The Netherlands. We had a long drive ahead of us that Monday, about 1050 kilometers or about 650 miles. There was a lot of road construction, and we ended up driving for about 11 hours. Yuk. We did make it to Hotel Amadeus in time for some beers (tea for Eric) and dinner...

Dinner at Hotel Amadeus in Hannover Germany

NEXT UP:
The Hague and the North Coast of Holland

Keeping It Fresh 

Keeping it fresh: 
  
I started playing guitar at age 12, and I will turn 50 this year, putting me at about 38 years of experience on that instrument. 
  
When I started playing, I started composing almost immediately. After having an acoustic for 6 months I wrote and recorded my first original song, “You Are What You Are.” I was so excited, pumped, jacked to be writing songs! The heroes that I was enamored with at the time (Bowie, Neil Young, Lou Reed) seemed so much closer. I could understand the writing process better, and in turn could imagine myself creating works like them. Well, not like them, but my version of what they were doing. 
  
This was a different sensation to being able to play the same riff or solos that my guitar heroes could. That was more like learning a language. 
  
This was a process where you made something happen that didn’t exist before. I made sure to try and keep my stuff fresh and not copy the same chords and motifs of my influences. I would purposefully avoid the common chord changes. I found my own set of harmonies that made me happy. 
  
Along the way my sensibilities have changed, and the sound of my originals have changed. To an outsider, maybe it seems radical. To my close friends and observant fans maybe not so much. It’s hard for me to really know how others perceive my music. I write songs that pass my own tests of originality and quality. (Not everything passes…) 
  
Sometimes the muse is strong. Sometimes I am on a roll, and everything I come up with gets made into songs and recorded. On my first solo CD, Left For Dead, I used every song I wrote for the album. There were no other tracks. My second effort, Deep Deep Blue was much the same. I self-edited early in the process and didn’t allow and sub-standard material to be recorded. Screaming In The Wind had one song that I recorded that didn’t cut the mustard at the end of the day. 
  
When I started working on my latest album, Skin and Bones, I was growing tired of working out all the songs beforehand. So I collected a bunch of raw ideas, all of which were recorded on my iPhone’s Voice Memo app, and brought in my bassist and drummer to work out the new songs on the fly. Things changed drastically: we recorded 20 songs and ended up using only 11. 
  
This change in the process was really quite refreshing. Not only did the songs feel more inspired and raw, but the tempos were faster and more of them have been added to my live set list as a result. I think that was the consequence of trying to not only satisfy my own criteria for good material, but also to keep my rhythm section interested and engaged. It gives the CD a different feel than the previous ones. Not necessarily better, but different. That makes me happy. I need to keep moving forward to keep things fresh. 
  
I just listened to David Bowie’s new album Blackstar. You can tell he wants to keep things fresh for himself, changing the way he writes and delivers his songs. One may criticize him for not writing more accessible material. “Hey man! Why don’t you write something like Ziggy Stardust again?” But for him that would be stale. I get it. I like the production on the new album; there are less overdubs and effects than the last few albums. The song Lazarus is excellent! 
  
(Note: I wrote this blog on Friday, January 15th the night before we all learned of David Bowie’s death) 
  
 

Skin and Bones 

My latest album, Skin and Bones, to be released on October 16th, 2015, on the American Blues Artist Group label was written and recorded a bit differently than my last three records.
 
I wanted this album to sound a bit less like a studio album, and have more of a raw feel. Neil Young is a great inspiration of mine, and I like the way he works in the studio; get the song worked up, and use one of the first takes. You can do overdubs, but don’t fuss over the little blemishes. More of the real personality of the song will come through.
 
In the past I have worked out the arrangements well before I go into the studio and record. The reason for this is to make sure you can get in and out without spending a ton of money. Typically we would be going for really good drum tracks and do the rest of the overdubs at home. To do this the songs needed to be completely formed before going into the expensive studio.
 
Well, now I have a home studio where we can record drums anytime we want. Also, I think the songs take a different shape when you work out the arrangements on the fly with the rhythm section right there in the room with you. So I brought my boys in and we got to work.
 
The songs on Skin and Bones came from three sessions- December of 2013, February of 2014 and December of 2014. Jason Patterson played drums and John Kessler the bass. We would listen to some riffs I recorded with my iPhone, select a few and start jamming on them. Usually it would take us about an hour to work up an arrangement and develop other parts of the song – bridge, solos, endings, etc… We would then play the finished version a few times and get the take.
 
I did some editing of the arrangements afterwards, but not much. I wanted to keep things as close as possible to our initial inspiration. Keeping the drums and most of the live takes, we worked from there and did a few overdubs.
 
Skin and Bones came from our second session in February of 2014. I had the main riff but faked my way through the chorus. I knew I would have to change the chords to make the song work, but left that until later after we finished the drums. Luckily I found the right chords! While Jason was still here, I wanted to get some shakers on the track but realized I didn’t have any that would work (they break a lot). So I ran upstairs to the medicine cabinet and got a bottle of Advil and a bottle of Excedrin. The Advil tablets are small and gave a higher pitched ‘shake’ while the Excedrin tabs were bigger and had a deeper tone. Recording those pain relievers shaking in their bottles really helped the sonic landscape of the song and help set the mood. The lyrics were inspired by a trip I took to New Orleans to attend the French Quarter Festival with some good friends. We were all there to have fun and by the time noon arrived on our first day, the debauchery had begun. Some of my memories from those days and nights are a bit cloudy, but the French Quarter made a real impression on me. There’s a deep dark history that lies behind the patina of the old buildings. I had played gigs there before while touring in other bands, but never really got to take in the flavor of the town…
 
Lonesome Memphis Blues emerged from our final session. I had all of the parts together except the breakdown, which happened spontaneously- just what I was going for on this record! I had spent some time in Memphis with friends at the International Blues Challenge a couple years in a row, and they made sure I saw the Stax museum, Sun studios and the Blues Foundation HQ. (Chicken and Waffles not to be forgotten.) Like New Orleans, I had played there before but was in and out too fast to explore the town. The lyrics aren’t so much about Memphis, but a feeling I got there without my beautiful wife by my side. Blues, Funk, Elvis, R & B all had strong roots there, but “I grew up on rock ‘n’ roll!”
 
Ain’t Nothing Gonna Stop Us Now came from us taking a hard right turn; we started out with the idea of covering a certain song, but decided to only work with the feel of the drumbeat. That riff came out right as we were listening to Jason play the beat, and it felt like it had the kind of energy you want to start a show with. The lyrics are about inviting the crowd to just have a good time. Forget about all the things you have to do, about the problems in your life. Just let go and have fun HERE and NOW.
 
I have always loved Johnny Winter’s music and guitar playing. He MUST have influenced the Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarists (think the end of Freebird)! He could play a mile a minute and was really pushing the boundaries of blues. His country picking technique used in the blues rock setting made his sound unique. Not many players approached it the same way. Freddie King also used a thumb and index finger pick, but in a much different way. So I thought it was time to do one of his songs. Leland Mississippi Blues is right there at the edge of blues and rock. The descending riff is totally cool and fun to play. It is one of my favorite songs to play live.
 
One Of These Days came from a jazzy progression I had worked out. (My guitar teacher Rob Swaynie would be happy that I used a minor seven flat five chord, ha ha ha.) But I thought it would be cool if the drums had a tom-tom beat that you could hear over and over again, that could put you in a trance if you let it. The whole idea was to capture that feeling of longing coupled with stagnation and ennui. You know, when you were young and apprehensive and lacked the confidence to go for what you really wanted. “Yeah, some day I’ll get there…” “She would never give me the time of day now, but down the road when I get my act together, then we’ll see…” that kind of thing. Also, it was fun to bust out the slide and go for it!
 
Did you know that Fuzzy Dice originated in the cockpit of World War II aircraft like the B-17? I didn’t. This tune started from a riff using the VERY cool Buzzmaster fuzz pedal. So the working title Fuzzy Dice inspired the lyrics: I Googled fuzzy dice and read about fighter pilots from WWII who would hang them in the cockpit, showing a seven for good luck, and incorporated some of the slang that was popular at the time. This song is all about having fun with that concept. The end of the tune, or (as I call it) the epilogue, called for a Queens-of-the-Stoneage-vibe pounding beat. (Full disclosure- Songs for the Deaf is one of my favorite albums.)
 
When I was goofing around with the riff that started this next tune, I thought Jimmy Page might have liked it; it certainly has some Zeppelin influence. Riff rock was surely his forté and his riffing has been a huge influence on me as a guitarist. Without You builds on that riff, and incorporates some of the sing-the-melody-with-your-guitar that I like to do. When you are missing that little lady that makes the fire burn in your soul, give this one a listen!
 
Space Cake started out as a sweep-picking riff that I heard in my head. I had a really hard time playing it and had to re-track the guitars several times to get it just right. This song is a good example of how I am trying to execute something I heard in my mind that was not easily played. After touring Europe a handful of times, and visiting Amsterdam a lot, you hear about the space cake. You know, with marijuana in there. I must admit I have never eaten the space cake from Amsterdam, but it sounds better to sing than ‘bud’ or ‘weed’ or some such. Now legalization efforts abound in the states, and I think Americans are coming to terms with the fact that most people have used it. From Clinton to Bush to Obama, and even my dad’s friends, to the neighbors… it really is everywhere. I grew up in the ‘70s in the Midwest where you could get a bag of Mexican or Columbian weed for about $18. The kind that was brown with all the seeds and stems in there (break out the double vinyl album). It was a part of growing up, and to me is a lot better for us all than alcohol. It seemed like the right time to write about it.
 
I love watching films about robberies and gangsters- Ocean’s 11, the Guy Ritchie films Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Barrels. The films glamourize the lifestyle. But what if one of these dudes really just wants to get out of that life and be with the woman he loves? That might be tough. Ain’t About The Money is my take on that. So, Mr. Ritchie, if you are reading this, maybe you could put this tune in one of your next movies? Hahahahaha.
 
Coming Home was born from a simple riff I liked to play on the acoustic. It’s me channeling Lightning Hopkins or Hubert Sumlin. Keep it simple yet expressive. A note to a brother or a friend telling them to pull their head out of their ass and come back home where people care about you. Sometimes we go on adventures and lose sight of what can really make us happy. I went for that classic old 1950’s plucked sound- I have been playing a lot of guitar with just my fingers lately (put that pic down!). Most of the song worked like that, however I did grab one for the second half of the solo… oh well…
 
I am lucky to have a woman who helps me be more of what I am. She puts the wind in my sails, injects me with the love voodoo that transcends ordinary motivation. I didn’t meet her in an old honkey tonk, but maybe someone did? Ha ha. Mojo Woman is who you will want to meet to put some excitement in your life! So let’s go see what’s down at the end of that dirt road by the swamp…
 
 
 
 

2015 European Tour Blog Part 4 

So, with 2 hours of sleep we took turns driving and hightailed it to Berlin. Destination: the Marriott hotel. Hello sheets, hello king size beds! Hahaha...

Berlin was not what I expected. Having been to Franfkurt, I was anticipating a city with a tall and distinct skyline. However, no buildings we saw were more than five or six stories high. On our way to the hotel this is the tallest thing we saw:
 

Berlin Freedom Tower In Germany there are very few skyscrapers. Most of them are in Frankfurt, and many Germans have told me that city is their most modern, and the closest thing to an American city. However, the charm and history is abundant. Our hotel was close to the Berlin wall, and it is hard to miss! We were also near checkpoint charlie. We spent our two days walking around. We enjoyed the shops, restaurants, cathedrals and Concert House of the Gerndarmenmarkt. As with most of the city, the buildings were heavily damaged or destroyed in World War II, but have been rebuilt.
 
 At the Berlin Wall

Konzerthaus Berlin
 Eric and I spent some time in the Hackeshermarkt neighborhood, which reminded us a bit of New York's SoHo: lots of cafés, indy clothing stores and trendy restaurants. In a vintage clothing store, I almost talked Eric into buying an old leather motorcycle jacket from the 50's... The food and beer were fantastic! We found a nice Italian place near our hotel, where the beers were HUGE! Quite a change from the tiny 8 oz glasses the Dutch use. Find someone who speaks Italian, and Eric comes alive! He is so happy to be able to speak his favorite language with people that understand! Somehow he talked the staff into thinking that we were some massively famous band. At the end of the night we were all best friends!

 The Dudley Taft Band Gets Five Star Treatment! 


Eric found some chocolate for dessert. We did some laundry, and were well rested and ready for the final shows of the tour in Poland. Our first stop was Poznan for a gig at the Alligator Club in the city center. This is where we had a day off on the last tour and we knew our way around. Our first stop was the Stary Brower mall where I needed a chip for my iPhone. We mainly used our phones for navigation in Europe. Being a Verizon customer, my only option for international coverage was extremely expensive: $25 for 100 mg of data! Yikes. So I bought a chip and data plan in each country. It was a pain in the ass to switch chips every time we crossed a border, but I did get the best reception possible (IMHO) and it ended up costing me a lot less than the Verizon plan. It is important to be able to connect with family and friends easily over there. And of course, we needed to Google and Wiki the things we saw or were curious about. There is so much history in that part of the world; we were constantly learning! The last time we played Poland, we were well received and this time was no exception. Even though our first two shows were booked at the last minute, we had great turnouts. We saw a lot of familiar faces from our last gigs there.
At the Alligator in Poznan The day after our first gig, we had some time to walk the city center and shopping mall. European fashion can be a bit different; somehow they can pull-off things we would never wear, like this jacket!
I dare you to wear this

 We are lucky that most young Polish people speak English- it really helps! However, there are some unfortunate word usages that may confuse Americans: 

First rule of Fart Club: Don't admit that you did it.

Our next show was up to the north in a town called Trzcianka (try to pronounce that!). We played a venue called the Cactus Bar, made to look like it was in the American Southwest. I felt right at home in my cowboy hat. We played a great show and the place was packed.Then we headed down south to play Victor Czura's radio show called Blues Attack! in Rzeszów. We had never been there before. It is the largest city in southeast Poland, and isn't too far from the Ukraine. Victor put us up in the posh Hotel Prezydencki, and treated us all like kings! I was under the impression that we would be playing in a small studio like I have done so many times before - with minimal microphones and challenging setups. However, they have a huge performance hall in there, complete with a studio audience!
 Radio Rzeszów Studio Audience


Gitarzysta Editor Krzysztof Inglik likes my Stratocaster!

After the show we hung out with the editor of the big Polish guitar mag, Gitarzysta. They did a three page spread on us last September. Krzysztof peppered me with questions about my tone and killer guitar rig. When you are with Victor Czura, be ready for lots of photos! He gave us a tour of the radio station, and we had a hearty meal.

Victor, Ewa, Krzysztof and the Band in Rzeszów

After a good night's sleep at the Hotel Prezydencki, we drove to the nearby town of Bochnia, where we did some sightseeing and Eric had time to feed the birds.

The gig that night turned out to be in a theater- a movie theater, actually. They blew up a picture of me for us all to sign for a fundraiser- but it was a bit strange to play next to a giant poster of myself on the stage...With Piotr Lekki and the crew in Bochnia

As usual, we had a blast. We sold the last of our t-shirts, and only had a couple of CDs left for our final show of the tour in Kielce.

As I have said in this blog, you never know what to expect when playing over here. From tiny bars to theaters and outdoor festivals to what looked like a bomb shelter, it is always interesting. Our final gig was in a restaurant/bar in the bottom of a glitzy new shopping mall. 

 If you're really hungry, order the whole band.

 We were happy to see many familiar faces from our last show there in September. They are so happy to greet American bands that travel all the way to their country, and treat us with enthusiastic respect. Poland will certainly be on the itinerary for all of our European tours.

The next morning we had a long drive ahead of us- we had to return the gear to Ralf & Kristin's in Cologne, and the drums to Anko & Helga's place in Vreizenveen. The sun was out, and we had a pleasant drive through the Polish and German countryside. One thing to take note of: since the formation of the European Union, the old border inspection stations are gone. You can just keep the pedal to the metal! Stopping at border crossing would add many many hours to our journeys. We made it to Hannover, Germany in about 7 1/2 hours and look what was there waiting for us!


 The Beer at the End of the Rainbow

Thanks to everyone who supported us on our fifth European tour. We are already making plans for a bigger tour in the summer of 2016, so stay tuned. In the meanwhile, our fourth studio album, Skin and Bones will be out on October 16th. Until then, put in your favorite Dudley Taft CD and crank it up!

2015 European Tour Blog Part 3 

What better place to play for us in Middleburg, Zeeland than Bar American? Ha ha.

Middleburg is on the southern coast of the Netherlands on a peninsula that sticks out into the Atlantic. It's not far from Oostburg, a town we have played a couple times before. It is nice to be close to the sea and cross the scenic bridges, dams and dykes. It was a windy day, but the sun was out and we walked around the square after we set up our gear.

It seems everywhere we go there is stunning architecture. "Another old building- better take a picture" we would joke to ourselves. 
 

Middleburg, Zeeland

This night's gig was arranged by Kaas ("Case"), the guy that hosted us at his bar, Penny Lane in Oostburg. He runs a blues society, and offered us a spot at his festival but we couldn't make that date. Bar American is a small grungy club with a portable stage that sets up on top of a pool table. Somehow it works... 
 

Bar American Stage (on top of a pool table)

We had an enthusiastic crowd that night, and one crazy fella made his way backstage with a peculiar way of showing his affection:
 

The Middleburg Middle Finger

Uhhh, I think he liked the show.

We stayed that night in a Hotel back across the water in Oostburg. Even though it was only 5 miles away, we had to backtrack to get there, so it was a 45 minute drive. Thank you Eric for driving- the rest of us were not legal behind the wheel at that point! Our innkeeper remembered us from last year (when we played Penny Lane), and gave us a fresh beer when we arrived.

After another breakfast of cold cuts and cheese, we drove east into Germany to a little town called Recklinghausen. We stayed in a teeny tiny hotel in a suite with a nice "shath" - a shower/bath. Ugh.
 

Recklinhausen 'Shath'

The gig that night was in a small bar by the bus station called Rauber & Rebellen - "Robbers and Rebels." It was like any other club gig except they had huge black leather couches on the floor, so everyone was practically horizontal during the show. We were right next to the city center, and had a good time drinking coffee in cafés and walking around checking out the shops. One thing that is big there: kababs! You can find them all over the place- and they make a great late night snack...

After Recklinghausen we had three gigs scheduled with Stony Roses, a band from Germany lead by guitarist Udo Löw. Udo found out about our band from the Tonehunter website (thanks Ralf!), and asked us to headline the shows for them. I was curious to meet Udo- he looks like he might just kick everyone's ass! Haha, and his English was about as good as my German, so it made our Facebook messaging challenging. 
 

Udo Löw of Thorny Roses


We rolled into Zweibrüken to a club called the Hobbit, so named because it looks like Bilbo Baggins' basement. I have to say, the stench when we walked in there was incredible! It was hard to breathe. I thought to myself this might be the first gig we cancel on account of stale air. 

Fortunately, they open the back door and turned on a huge exhaust fan. Whew. It was fun to have a band open for us- we would play only one long set and get to watch them play. They do a funky rock thing with an operatic female lead singer Daniela"The Voice" Rössler. Udo turned out to be a real sweetheart of a guy, and we all got along well. The place was small, so it looked really crowded when people showed up.
 

The Hobbit ( or Bilbo Baggins' Basement)


The next gig was in the neighboring town of Saarbrüken on the French boarder. This gig was one of the more memorable ones on the tour. We played a club called the Garage, and they had a nice big stage and pro sound system. The crowd was fantastic, and loved the show. In attendance that night was a guy named Dragan Nikitovik, a concert promoter who does HUGE shows like AC/DC in Moscow, Justin Bieber shows, Celine Dion, etc... But Dragan likes blues rock guitar, and he knew of me through a mutual friend at M.i.G. records (thanks Bernd Ramien!). He lives in Saarbrüken so it was easy for him to get to the show.

Afterwards we all hung out and had some food and beer at a place right down the street. Dragan vented to me a bit about working with another Blues Rock artist with whom he had great difficulty. He seemed to like what we were doing, and offered to help us find some bigger festivals for the summer of 2016. I am looking forward to working with him, so stay tuned!

The next morning we got a tour of historic Saarbrüken from one of the Thorny Roses entourage. More old buildings! So we took some pictures.
 

Saarbrüken

Saarbrüken

Saarbrüken Dragon!

Dinner with Thorny Roses


Our last show with Thorny Roses turned out to be uh, memorable as well. We played a tennis club in Dillengen, not too far away. I've never gigged at a tennis club before, so that was interesting. The staff there treated us well and the food was great. The turnout was just ok, but we all had fun. That night, however, was one for the history books. I'll let Eric Robert explain:
 
"Let me begin by saying that touring in Europe is, as you can imagine, a nonstop adventure. And it's something for which I am grateful and will remember forever. For a legit adventure, you need extremes, especially when we're talking about food or accommodations. It took some deep reflection (and constant self-reminding) about this to make it through one particular night when we arrived at a place that had been arranged for us in Germany. Our hosts, friends of a venue manager (to whom a favor may have been owed), ended up staying up (and smoking) all night in the large main room of the rural house, watching (and re-watching at high volume) an old Neil Young concert videotape. With no ventilation, the unending flow of smoke hovered where I was [not] sleeping in an above loft. I've never smoked cigarettes in my life but by dawn I felt like Camel Joe, and smelled like him too. Thank goodness Dudley had his own room with a real door that closed, and was able to get some sleep so he could drive to the next city on the schedule. And believe me... we couldn't leave fast enough. We still don't know if our two hosts ever went to bed."

Ha ha ha. Yeah, that was interesting. After putting our bags there before the show, the guy and his girlfriend were watching a Ted Nugent concert video- not from the 1970'S 'loincloth' era, but a recent one. I thought it was funny- Ted and his bass player (sans shirt) were running around the stage with headset microphones. However, when I woke up at 5 am to use the bathroom I realized that they never went to bed, and they were still watching concert videos at high volume. (How I got to sleep in the first place was miraculous.) John and Carl had to sleep in their bed- initially they told our hosts that they would sleep on the couch, but the couch was where they wanted to watch concert videos all night, apparently. After I laid back down- on a child's bed with sioled sheets- I heard "Strangehold" again, blasting loudly through the living room. It was comically horrible. Eric was curled up on a couch in the corner with his head buried in a blanket. I laid there for about another 90 minutes and had abut all the Ted Nugent I can handle. Next thing I know, John and Carl poke their heads in my room, fully clothed, holding his suitcase, coat and hat on and said "Ok, are you ready to go?" I jumped into my clothes and we hightailed it out of there at warp speed. Goodbye House of Horrors!

That awful experience prompted me to splurge on our hotel for our 2 days off in Berlin. Thank you Marriott for making us feel human again! It would have been horrible if we had to gig the next night. Losing sleep on the road is the absolute worst thing that can happen because it snowballs, and it's hard to get caught up on your rest. THANKFULLY the next 2 days were off, and we all got to check out Berlin and sleep on nice fresh white sheets in king size beds. Whohooo!

NEXT UP: ERIC CONVINCES AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT THAT WE ARE INTERNATIONAL ROCK STARS.